I have shared that I am an aficionado of refranes, adages, or proverbs, and I have shared quite a few of them in this blog. A couple of years ago I was reading about a painting by Bruegel the Elder, from 1559, which depicts over one hundred different Dutch proverbs in a single painting. One author shared a Dutch proverb from the 16th century (not in the painting though), which I quickly adopted as my favorite. At the risk of offending some of you, the most direct English translation is: Every little bit helps, said the mouse as he pissed into the sea. How many of us would suspect that there is more to the saying that every little bit helps, and that it goes back hundreds of years?
When I shared my new favorite proverb with my mother, she informed me that a much loved saying of my grandmother Hazel (I talked about her last week.) and my father, was “every little bit helps, said the old woman as she peed in the sea.” I never heard either of them say this proverb, but am told they recited it frequently. I have no idea of the path from a 16th century Dutch proverb to a 20th century saying of my grandmother in the United States, but I am certain that they are connected.
Believe it or not, this saying is related to last week’s subject of the Perfect Miracle Marriage. I mentioned that taking ACTION is crucial to building a good marriage. I’ve discussed the fact that actions speak louder than words. I like how it’s worded in I John 3:18 – Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. I don’t know about you, but what I need is more action. It’s not enough to know there is something I could, I should do to improve things, to address issues, I have to take the action. And every little bit helps. You have to give a little and share a little to be shared with, to get a little, to build a partnership. It has to be two-way.
Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. To me the application to a relationship is that if you deny and ignore problems and hope they will go away and things will get better – you are demonstrating what an outside observer would call insanity. It’s one thing to ask God to give you the serenity to accept the things and the people you cannot change, and the courage to change what you can. But that does not translate into not speaking up about the things that need to change in another person, it just means you cannot assume the role of changer or fixer.
Last week I mentioned that the marriage of Ruth and Boaz was a good example. Another thought on Ruth is that she said to her mother-in-law, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” What do I do to urge my Ruth to leave me? Will my Ruth go where I go and stay where I stay? Do I have enough sharing and enough partnership that she will? Do YOU?
Someone shared a love story with me tonight. Her niece is married and has three children. The first time this woman met her niece’s son Avery, he was five or six years old. She said to Avery, “I love you,” and kissed him. Avery immediately asked, “How can you love me, we just met?” She explained, love is a big circle, and when you love somebody you put them in your love circle. Avery still had some concerns, not quite convinced. He asked, “What happens when your love circle is full?” She said, “You just draw a bigger love circle.” Avery’s final question was, “Could you do that with a square?”
I ask myself, how big is my love circle? Have I drawn a bigger one, big enough to include someone other than myself? Is it big enough to include the Lord, to include my spouse? Or am I trying to fit an insane square peg into a round circle? What about you?
I like antique post cards, and the one at the top says:
Cupid often in melting
A heart when love arise
Leaves the other
As cold as ice.
Sharing and actions in truth – that is how to melt a heart without leaving the other cold as ice. Every little bit helps, every step forward, every move closer together. Whenever I hear the phrase “every little bit helps” I chuckle, knowing the person who just said it hasn’t a clue as to the rest of the phrase. I think of my grandmother, and I ask myself what little (or big) step forward do I most need to take right now.